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Sony announces streaming TV and game services

Wed, 01/08/2014 - 1:19pm
Brian Santo

Among the many things Sony announced at CES, two could be momentous for established MVPDs: the company plans to introduce a competitive web-based video service, and it plans to switch delivery of Playstation games from selling physical disks to a streaming model.

CEO Kazuo Hirai said the new cloud-based multi-screen TV service would include both live and on-demand programming. Sony has developed its own user interface, which Hirai said would not only provide recommendations but also “personalized channels.” Social networking will be integrated.

The company already has an app, called Crackle, available on its Playstation game consoles, to deliver movies in the Sony library. That might be key to Sony’s promised streaming TV business. Intel was developing a similar service, but threw in the towel when it failed to find enough programmers who would sell the company content rights (Intel sold assets associated with the business – notably its user interface – to Verizon). Sony has its own content library to build off.

Andrew House, head of Sony’s computer entertainment group, said the PlayStation 4 has sold 4.2 million units in 2013. (Microsoft’s Xbox One sold 3 million.) He then announced the company’s PlayStation Now service, which will provide broadband access to Sony’s PlayStation game library.

People will be able to rent single titles, or pay for a buffet-style subscription plan. Sony will begin testing the service in the U.S. in January and roll it out in the summer, House said.

The service will initially be available on PS3 and PS4 consoles and Sony’s 2014 Bravia TV sets. Availability will come next to the PS Vita handheld game device and then eventually to non-Sony devices, according to the company.

The game service uses the cloud computing technology of Gaikai Inc., which Sony bought in 2012, it said. The company is considering offering the service in Japan, but the timing is undecided.

Streaming game services are not new, however and they have failed to gain traction in the past. Yet some see a significant turning point with Sony's PlayStation Now because it will run on a remote server, eliminating the need to download large files.

Microsoft continues to develop its own streaming technology as well.

Video walls have been imagined for decades, and in recent years the number of demonstrations of video walls suggested that the approach is getting closer to becoming a commercial reality. During his keynote address at CES, Hirai demonstrated a projector system that can turn a wall into a 147-inch display with 4K resolution. The system could be on the market as early as this summer.

He also said Sony is working on equipping a very wide range of products with sensors, including cameras, vehicles, farms and even skincare – sensors could capture data such as blood flow and oxygen saturation to develop treatments.

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